Sunday, August 25, 2013


"As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord."
-Joshua 24:15

As you may have noticed, ICS will begin three different yet connected initiatives during the 2013 - 14 school year: Family Suppers, Irish Cup, and Household Meetings.

All three revolve around the 2013 - 14 ICS theme "HOME". All three are intended to help our school community grow closer together and closer to God. They should provide us with greater and more opportunities for us to actually be something that all Catholic schools worth their salt claim to be: a family.


    • To further the mission of the school by providing greater pastoral care to all our students while strengthening our sense of family, school spirit and faith in God. 

First, the overall concept began during an in-service training I attended back in May. The focus of the day was anti-bullying and strategies to help prevent these negative interactions from occurring within the walls of our schools were the main topic of conversation. During one of the many activities throughout the day, I was struck with two thoughts.

First, we do not do enough to actually promote and create a sense of family within and among our students. We take for granted that since we are a Catholic school and most of our students are Catholic or at least Christian and therefore will treat each in Christ-like ways.

Second, we have "homerooms" within our school - the room in which all students begin and end their days. Some spend the entire course of their core content there. Others use it as a place for lockers and starting and ending their days. In either case, camaraderie may be developed and fostered but only on a grade level basis. In cases where there are two sections (or homerooms) within a grade, this fellowship is delegated to include only half of the class. If anything, and despite the healthy rivalries that can result, homerooms serve as a divisive aspect of our schools. So, the idea to include "Households" into our school community was hatched. Students would still be divided into homerooms by grade level. They would also, though, be divided into Households - headed by one of our faculty members and comprised of students from all grade levels.

Thus, a purpose was also envisioned: to further the mission of the school by providing greater pastoral care to all students while strengthening our sense of family, school spirit and faith in God.


    • Meals
    • Meetings
    • Masses
    • Recreation

This vision, if it were to become a reality within our school, needed time and activities worthy of building and developing a greater sense of family within and among the various constituents in our school community. We couldn't expect people to grow closer together without giving them time and opportunities to establish, develop and cultivate worthwhile relationships. Household activities needed to be more often than once a month and more involved than a 15 minute meeting, sitting together at Mass or playing games together during a pep rally.

The method behind the vision has since taken on many layers and involves many different activities. Households will gather twice per month and the activities will include Household meetings, attendance at Mass as a Household, Household Meals (called Family Suppers) and recreational activities (called Irish Cup Activities).

Household meetings will take place during 1st period on one Wednesday per month. Students within a Household will gather together and enter into a "family meeting" focused on getting to know the various members within the household and working together to accomplish team building activities. At the conclusion of these meetings, Households will gather attend Mass as a Household, sitting together instead of with their grade level homerooms.

Recognizing that 20 minutes of discussion and then worshipping together will not provide enough time to fully create a sense of family, Households will also gather once per month to eat lunch together. Deemed a "Family Supper", Households will eat in classrooms as a household. Taking Christ as our example and model, we believe that eating together as a family will help break down the walls that divide us and allow all students to feel more included and a part of our larger school family. Our Mass is the commemoration of a meal (the Last Supper), Jesus is frequently either at a meal, going to a meal or coming from a meal in the Gospels. From the wedding feast at Cana, to feeding the 5,000, to eating with Peter on the shores after the Resurrection, the Gospel is filled with stories of Jesus breaking bread with others.

Finally, we also realized that families need to play together. In conjunction with our Family Suppers, students and teachers will also participate in a competition for the Irish Cup. Friendly competitions will be designed to center on academics, athletics and school spirit and Households will accumulate points toward the Irish Cup throughout the course of the year for the various Household activities. The culmination of the Irish Cup competition will occur during the Irish Cup Championship - formerly known as (the somewhat isolated and purposeless) Field Day.


Finally, and in an attempt to bring the entire school closer together as a result of these efforts, Households will be grouped into 4 different priories (taken from the organization within many religious orders, a priory is a small group of monks or nuns governed by a prior or prioress). This larger structure will help Households to feel connected with more than just their small group and will create an even greater sense of healthy competition between and among Households within our school. Priories will be  named for one of the letters of the word, HOME.

As a way to ensure that students understand this structure and recognize that all Households and Priories are part of the same family, time spent together in Households will always end as a larger school community and will incorporate the following rallying cry:

Give me an H. H!
Give me an O. O!
Give me an M. M!
Give me an E. E! (Each of the above is yelled by the Households representing that particular priory.)

What's that spell? HOME! (Yelled by all.)

Who lives in a HOME? A FAMILY! (Yelled by all.)

Who is our FAMILY? ICS! (Yelled by all.)

As for me and my school, we will serve the Lord.


Sunday, August 18, 2013

The First Day

This past Saturday was the first day since the death of my father that I did not speak to my mother. It wasn't that I didn't try. I called and texted. Our schedules just did not coincide and so the sun set and both of us ended our days without speaking to each other.

This saddened me incredibly. As I realized that touching base with my mom wasn't going to happen, I also realized that perhaps speaking to her was more for me than for her. She could have called me. She has never asked or even hinted that she needed me or my siblings to talk to her every day. In some small way, perhaps I figured it was a gesture that I could complete that would allow me to feel important and helpful, as if a daily phone call from me could somehow help to compensate for the loss of her husband. As I said, the call, I realized last night, was for me. I'm the one who needs it.

I didn't like how missing this conversation with my mom for the first time made me feel. Therefore, it will inspire me to continue, for my sake, to pick up the phone and call her. There will undoubtedly be a second time, third, fourth and maybe even tenth. But, the pain of this first time will inspire me to continue to reach out via phone and touch my mom.

The first time that something happens is filled with poignancy. The first time you drive a car by yourself. Your first kiss. The first time you hold your child in your arms. The death of a loved one. The first time you try a new dessert, or listen to a new song or watch a new movie. The first of something, while not necessarily the best, is usually incredibly memorable. Research supports this; which is why, especially for pleasure, we often continue to seek out new and novel treats. The surprise adds to the effect.

The first day of school is always filled with emotion and is usually more memorable than the rest of the year. A new classroom, a new teacher, new books, new supplies, new classmates, new clothes, new backpacks, new shoes, a new year. Unlike the first day of the calendar year, the first day of school isn't just an extension of the last day of last year. All of these novel features make the first day feel incredibly new. The first day, therefore, becomes very memorable and has the potential to allow a student, teacher, administrator and even parent to be different than previous campaigns.

The death of my father changed me. I make a point to connect with my mother every day and my siblings much more often than I had prior to his passing. This novel event changed me. It changed the person that I was and the person that I wanted to become. Missing a day to talk to my mom will only reinforce my desire to continue to be this new creation.

In a similar way, the first day of school, because of its novelty, can inspire monumental and permanent changes. Students can recommit to having exemplar behavior or completing all of their homework or just studying harder or taking school more seriously. Teachers can rededicate themselves to their profession and with each new school year comes the opportunity to correct last year's mistakes and try the things that weren't attempted in the past. They can be the teacher they always thought they'd be. Administrators get another chance to reestablish policies, procedures, climate and areas of emphasis. Parents can re-devote themselves to working with their child(ren) and their child(ren)'s teacher(s) for the success of their kid(s). They can re-create more time in their schedules for their families and make this year like the one they always envisioned it would be.

The first day of school will be memorable. In a similar way, the year will be as well. But, the year will only be as good (or bad) as we make it. Homework will be forgotten, morning schedules and routines will cause a tardy to school, tempers may flare and patience may be lost. But, perhaps this year those negative things will be the exception rather than the rule and perhaps the first time these things happen will be so poignant, so impactful, and so meaningful that they become the only time.

Happy first day of school. May it be filled with blessings beyond what you can even conceive or imagine.

May your first day, and the entire year, be amazing!